Depression and Executive Functioning

How is Executive Functioning related to Depression?

Common traits of depression include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness, loss of motivation, lowered self-esteem, poor concentration and decision making, loss of energy, and suicidal ideation.

Now, consider important aspects of executive functioning related to emotional regulation:

Flexible thinking and flexible problem solving

Behavioral inhibition or thinking before acting

Purposeful shifting of attention or being able to shift out of one line of thinking

Decision making

Working memory (ability to distract self from primary or emotionally charged thinking, ability to think about more than one

thought, including another perspective of an issue or problem at one time, being able to retrieve information or learned

emotional regulation strategies from long term memory)

There is a viable area of research documenting how these two areas of functioning interplay with each other.  Executive functioning abilities can certainly be impacted by depression.  However, it seems that executive functioning strengths may be able to impact emotional regulation on some level or to some degree.   There is research to suggest that emotional regulation can be a mediator for depression and in order to employ those skills, executive functioning skills and abilities are needed.  I believe that this speaks to a fascinating area of more needed research to explore for children and adolescents, especially as we think about early intervention and addressing psychiatric and neurocognitive issues sooner rather than later.